Rugby League great Greg Alexander has delivered a brutal reality check on Mal Meninga's Kangaroos side, describing their record 30-0 loss against New Zealand in the Pacific Championships final as "embarrassing". The Aussies were outplayed across the park and were guilty of a litany of missed tackles as the Kiwis ran riot in Hamilton to inflict the heaviest defeat on the Kangaroos in their 115-year history.
Meninga's men missed a staggering 51 tackles compared to New Zealand's 33, while being dominated by a Kiwis pack showing much greater intensity. The return of Payne Haas, Liam Martin and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui should have given the Aussies a massive lift but they were constantly out-enthused by the hosts, who dominated the line break count with seven, compared to none for Australia.
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None of Meninga's forward pack ran for more than 100 metres and as a collective, the Kiwis outran the Aussies by more than 700 metres. Alexander pointed to the blistering start from Michael Maguire's New Zealand side as laying the platform for victory but refused to pull his punches when discussing Australia's record thumping.
“The Kiwis needed to make a good start, they needed to be strong and aggressive and they needed to keep it going because this is Australian side is a fantastic side,” Alexander said. “But the Kiwis embarrassed them (Kangaroos) this afternoon. It’s an embarrassing result for Australian rugby league.”
— Parko (@Parko23) November 4, 2023
No matter how you look at it … this is a woeful display by the kangaroos. DCE and Munster just can get anything going, Grant and Hunt having a shocker and the kangaroos forward pack getting monstered. #PacificChampionships
— t mac (@tmac03574134) November 4, 2023
— Craig M (@diminutiverowdy) November 4, 2023
Kiwi lock Joseph Tapine led the pack like a colossus, and halves Dylan Brown and Jahrome Hughes controlled play at their leisure in the inaugural Pacific Cup. Winger Jamayne Isaako scored a double to continue his incredible year as the Kiwis bounced back from last week's 36-18 loss to the Kangaroos in style.
“Mentally they weren’t prepared for what the Kiwis were going to throw at them,” Alexander added. “They would have known, they knew it was coming after beating New Zealand last week. I’m sure Mal spoke that the ambush was coming. They barely had the ball in the second half.”
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Meninga admitted the result "hurt" but vowed that his side would seek redemption when they face the Kiwis again next year. "Everyone loves to see us lose and we've done that," the Kangaroos coach said.
"We've made everyone happy. Obviously (the result) will shock the rugby league world in the manner we lost and the scoreline, but we will come back with redemption at the end of next year. We made heaps of errors. That is a reflection of how New Zealand played. They were the better side and deserved their victory."
Winger Ronaldo Mulitalo started and finished a sensational length-of-the-field movement by the Kiwis in the 14th minute, adding a massive try-saving hit on Valentine Holmes to go with his try. Brown and Hughes combined superbly and it was the latter who released fullback and man of the match Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to send in-form winger Isaako over in the corner for a fabulous team try on the cusp of halftime.
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) November 4, 2023
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In the second half, Isaako finished a scrum move in the corner when a floating Hughes ball caught Australia short. The Dolphins flyer put the ball down one millimetre inside the touch-in-goal line in a sublime piece of skill to give the Kiwis a 16-0 lead.
Brown was at his lethal best when his soft hands put barnstorming centre Matt Timoko over under the posts, before bench forward Griffin Neame bulldozed past Nicho Hynes and James Tedesco to embarrass the threadbare Kangaroos defence. "You never think a Test match is going to be 30-0, but there is something special within this group," Kiwis coach Michael Maguire said.
Former Kangaroos great Cooper Cronk suggested complacency may have crept in for Meninga's side after last week's win over the Kiwis. “Under Mal, they’ve played 26 games and that’s only his third loss as Australian coach. He’s had a lot of success that the playing group has probably been used to," Cronk said. “It was a dominant NZ performance, but maybe there was a little bit of complacency after last week.”
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